Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder and risk of injury to a child, holding that none of Defendant's claims of error warranted reversal of his convictions. Defendant was convicted of killing his seven-month-old son in an incident in which Defendant also attempted suicide. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence arising from statements that Defendant had made to the police while in the hospital; (2) even assuming that the trial court improperly admitted Defendant's statements made at the hospital in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-lo because the interview was not recorded, any such error was harmless; and (3) the trial court did not err by precluding Defendant from introducing into evidence Defendant's offer to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for twenty-five years' incarceration. View "State v. Tony M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that Defendant failed to establish that his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him was violated at trial, holding that, under the specific circumstances of this case, Defendant established a violation of his right to confrontation. Defendant was found guilty of felony murder, manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm, and other offenses. At trial, the State introduced evidence that Defendant's DNA profile, which had been generated from a post arrest buccal swab, matched the DNA found on evidence from the crime scene. The State, however, did not call as a witness the analyst who processed the buccal swab and generated the DNA profile used in the comparison. On appeal, the Appellate Court concluded that Defendant's Sixth Amendment claim failed because the admission of DNA evidence did not violate Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the generation of DNA's profile was testimonial and that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him was violated. View "State v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's petition seeking erasure of an earlier finding that he had violated his probation, holding that the trial court properly rejected Defendant's argument that Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-142d compelled the erasure of a finding of a violation of probation that Defendant claimed was premised on the now decriminalized offense of possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana. In State v. Menditto, 110 A.3d 410 (Conn. 2015), the Supreme Court held that Public Acts 2011, No. 11-71 "decriminalized" the possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana for purposes of the erasure statute, section 54-142d. In his petition, Defendant argued that because his 2012 marijuana conviction had been erased from his record, no conviction any longer supported the violation of probation finding. The trial court rejected Defendant's argument. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 54-142d did not entitle Defendant to erasure of the records pertaining to the 2012 finding that he violated his probation. View "State v. Dudley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court dismissing Appellant's appeal from the judgment of the habeas court denying Appellant's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant failed to meet his burden of showing that his criminal trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to present the testimony of a second alibi witness to support his defense. On appeal, Appellant claimed that the Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying certification to appeal because he established that his counsel had performed deficiently. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) it was not debatable among jurists of reason that Appellant rendered ineffective assistance; and (2) therefore, the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the habeas court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's petition for certification to appeal. View "Meletrich v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court determining that Plaintiff's various statements and gestures regarding gun violence and mass shootings that led to his expulsion from the university were true threats that were not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, holding that Plaintiff's statements and gestures made on a public university campus were true threats. A university expelled Plaintiff from the university's campus after finding that Plaintiff's statements and actions with respect to gun violence had violated four provisions of the university's student code of conduct. Plaintiff brought this action alleging, among other things, that his expulsion violated his constitutional rights to due process and to freedom of speech. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that his statements and gestures were hyperbolic and humorous statements on a matter of public concern. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff's statements and gestures were true threats that were not protected by the First Amendment. View "Haughwout v. Tordenti" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of sexual assault in a cohabiting relationship, holding that alleged improper comments made by the prosecutor during closing argument and cross-examination did not warrant reversal of Defendant's conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor made an impermissible "generic tailoring" argument by commenting in closing argument that the jury should discredit Defendant's trial testimony and that this comment violated his confrontation rights under the Connecticut Constitution. Defendant further argued that the prosecutor engaged in impermissible conduct in violation of his due process right to a fair trial pursuant to State v. Singh, 793 A.2d 226 (Conn. 2002). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor's tailoring comment constituted a specific, rather than a generic, tailoring argument; and (2) assuming that Singh was violated, Defendant was not deprived of his due process right to a fair trial. View "State v. Weatherspoon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme dismissed the writ of error filed by Appellant, who was suspended from the practice of law before the appellate court for a six-month period, holding that an additional order issued by the appellate court in 2018 clarifying the previous order did not violate the ex post facto clause in violation of the United States Constitution. In 2014, the appellate court issued its order suspending Appellant from practice and barring her from representing any client before the appellate court until she filed a motion for reinstatement and that motion had been granted. In 2018, the appellate issued issued an additional order clarifying that the 2014 order precluded Appellant from providing "legal services of any kind in connection with any" appellate court matter until she filed a motion for reinstatement and that motion had been granted. Appellant filed a writ of error, arguing, among other things, that the 2018 order was an unconstitutional ex post facto law because it retroactively prohibited her from engaging in certain conduct. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of error, holding that the 2018 did not violate the ex post facto clause or Appellant's due process rights and that Appellant's claims of selective enforcement and discriminatory and retaliatory treatment were not reviewable by the Court. View "Cimmino v. Marcoccia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the appellate court affirming Defendant's conviction of two counts of assault in the first degree, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant's conviction. At issue in this appeal was what parameters should be used by the trier of fact to assess whether a defendant has inflicted serious physical injury in the form of serious disfigurement to be found guilty of assault in the first degree. Defendant argued that a forearm scar sustained by one victim was insufficient for the jury to find the serious physical injury necessary to support the charge of assault in the first degree. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the victim's disfigurement was not of a magnitude that could be found to substantially detract from the victim's appearance, and therefore, the evidence was insufficient to meet the threshold for serious disfigurement; and (2) the State was not entitled to have Defendant's conviction modified. View "State v. Petion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's murder conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was arrested for drug offenses and the murder of the victim. Five days after Defendant's rent was due for a second month the police searched his apartment without a warrant. The police discovered the victim's cell phone hidden in a bathroom wall. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant did not have a subjective expectation of privacy in the apartment at the time of the search because the lease had expired and Defendant had failed to make rent payments and to secure his belongings in the apartment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under the facts of this case, Defendant established that the apartment was his home and neither his incarceration or his failure to pay rent five days after it was due divested him of his subjective expectation of privacy in his apartment; and (2) because the State did not argue that any error was harmless, the case is remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Jacques" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment convicting Defendant of one count of possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who is not drug-dependent, holding that the admission of certain hearsay evidence was erroneous, but the error was not of constitutional dimension and was not harmful. The hearsay statements at issue were used to establish that Defendant was the de facto owner of a vehicle registered to a third party. Defendant was a passenger in the vehicle when police officers discovered bricks of heroin and a large sum of cash. On appeal, Defendant argued that the admission of the hearsay statements, which were based on vehicle inspection records, violated his constitutional right to confront a witness against him. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statements regarding the inspection were testimonial but that improper admission of the hearsay evidence was not harmful. View "State v. Sinclair" on Justia Law